Platforms for Life

Platforms for Life is a modular system for net-zero affordable housing

Platforms for Life

Platforms for Life is a modular system for net-zero affordable housing

Platforms for Life is an innovative design-to-delivery system that tackles pressing issues in the North American housing sector — cost, performance, urban sprawl — while producing accessible and high-quality homes.

The system is part of a longer study in affordable net zero homes, conducted by Vancouver-based design firm LWPAC (Lang Wilson Practice in Architecture Culture) and Intelligent City, a leading developer in Canada.


In the prototype for Monrad Corvette Landing (Vancouver Island, Canada), the units’ stackability creates composite building forms.
© LWPAC, Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

LWPAC’s approach favours compressed laminated timber (CLT) as a material of choice to create modular units that incorporate diversity of use and form and are assembled into larger, more complex built forms.

Pre-fabrication and parametric design serve as tools to produce these variations that permit a response to site and programme, while enhancing speed and reducing cost simultaneously.

In place of the traditional ‘one-size-fits-all’ model, this adopts a scalable, bottom-up approach. The system’s proprietary software enables participatory design and mass customisation of apartments.


The developments have courtyards within them.
© LWPAC, Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction
Building liveable and inclusive communities

The housing units can range from micro-suites for individual occupancy to larger units for extended families. This flexibility in internal layouts empowers people to take charge and manifest their own vision of urban living.


The land is contoured to address architectural form.
© LWPAC, Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

The system uses a variety of distinct clusters developed through generations of prototypes. The units are stacked in efficient hallway-free layouts, fitting up to 50% more homes in the same footprint as standard housing models.


The building form and envelope promote passive design.
© LWPAC, Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

All modules have access to abundant sunlight, cross ventilation and outdoor areas through double-sided homes and open circulation. This helps to reduce the need for artificial lighting and ventilation by nearly 50%. The facade screens vary in appearance and opacity to control solar gain and privacy.

Social interaction spaces aid in community building within these clusters. The design also incorporates mixed-use forms to support facilities for urban agriculture, education, healthcare and recreation.


In Monrad Rupert (Vancouver, Canada), the architecture is augmented with balconies and roof gardens.
© Nick Lehoux, Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

Platforms for Life is one of the first systems of its kind capable of rising above six stories. Its prefabricated modules can even offer seismic resistance on sites where this is a major concern.

Net-zero homes through prefabricated design

Prefabricated CLT panels are used to create open spatial modules that are fire-resistant, highly insulated and can serve as carbon sinks.


The pre-fabrication of units is done offsite to save time and cost.
© LWPAC, Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

Proposed as an end-to-end solution, the structure embraces a design-to-fabrication approach. Several scenarios are generated by the system’s proprietary software to determine the best fit.

This act of optimisation contributes to the manufacturing of timber panels used in module assembly through computer numerical control (CNC) machining and robotic fabrication, ensuring consistency and quality.

Here, automation and optimised supply chains reduce construction costs by up to 30% and construction duration by 50%. Cumulatively, these contribute to making the homes more affordable, even when built on high-value plots of land.

Moveable solar screens, full-height windows, geothermal heating and cooling systems and an airtight envelope result in energy consumption that is up to 90% less than the norm, contributing to a near net-zero performance.


ROAR_one (Vancouver Canada) has interiors with abundant daylight and views.
© Nic Lehoux, Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

Coupled with other performance metrics, the system’s projects are expected to meet requirements for a Certified Passive House design and achieve a LEED v4 Platinum rating.

In North American cities where affordable housing is hard to find, Platforms for Life is an innovative solution. Te project won the Holcim Award Silver 2017-18 North America for its scalability, affordability and exceptional performance.

Read more about the project on the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction page here.

Post sponsored by the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

A Frontline project is holistic, net-zero/net-positive and integrative. It protects or regenerates a combination of social, ecological, and economic systems, aiming for a ‘greater-than-sum-of-parts’ outcome.

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Fact Sheet

Disclaimer: Location provided as reference only. Exact site may differ.

Under the Köppen climate classification, these are ‘C’ climate types. Temperate climates have mild winters and summers where the average in the warmest month is higher than 10° C and the coldest does not drop below 0° C. This climate is common in coastal regions.

There are no performance metrics available for this project.

Designer:
LWPAC
Intelligent City

Team:
Oliver Lang
Cynthia Wilson
Martina Caniglia
Jenny Lee
Mingyue Zhang
Ryan Gillespie
Thomas Bocahut

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Good design often reveals what we do not know we need. But such a feat depends not only on what we tweak and improve, says Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, but how we re-imagine the process. The question is: where to start?
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